How to start a Stihl chainsaw

I found it took some time to really know how start to my Stihl chainsaw. Having learned the black arts, I now find myself helping friends to understand how to use their chainsaws. This information seems very useful, but also extremely hard to find. So, in a departure from our normal theme, I thought I’d write some notes on how to start a Stihl chainsaw.

How to start a Stihl chainsaw


Always read the instruction manual before using a chainsaw. Please consider formal training before using a chainsaw. This guide is only for how to start the engine – it is not a guide for how to use the chainsaw. Caerketton Tech take no responsibility for any injuries caused when following these instructions – use at your own risk!


Some saws come with decompression valves. If you have one of these, it is important that you only ever push it in when starting a cold engine. If you push it in with a hot engine, then you will find it extremely difficult to start your saw.

If you use full choke too much, or at the wrong time, then you will flood the chamber. If this happens, you can either wait an hour, or you can clean the spark plugs and empty the chamber, before starting again.

How hot is my engine?

In this article, I refer to “cold”, “warm” and “hot” engines. Here’s what I mean :

A “cold” engine is one which has not been started for a long time.

A “warm” engine is one which has either been running for a while, and is still warm (but may have been turned off for a while), or one which has recently been started, but which is not hot.

A “hot” engine is one which has recently been running, and has run for some time, or done a reasonable amount of work.

Starting a cold engine

If you have a decompression valve, push it in now.

First, push the saw brake on, so that the saw is locked in place. Make sure that you leave the brake on until you are ready for the saw to rotate. (Remember that you can burn out the clutch if attempting to power the saw with the brake on)

Now put the choke to full. You should only ever do this with a cold engine.

With full choke, pull the starting cord until you hear the engine trying to catch. As soon as you hear this, stop. Stop after five pulls in any case.

Now, quickly move the choke to half on. Pull the cord repeatedly until the engine catches.

When the engine is running, move the switch to the “I” position, and allow the engine to idle while it warms up.

Once the engine is warm, and you have your protective equipment on, you can release the saw brake. You are now ready to saw.

Starting a warm engine

First of all, never push the decompression valve in on a warm engine.

Try switching the choke to either half-on or off, and pulling the cord. Don’t use full choke on a warm engine.

Starting a hot engine

Never use the decompression valve on a hot engine, and don’t use half choke either. Just start it with no choke.